Floor 4—History of the Bible
The fourth floor of the museum is dedicated entirely to the History of the Bible. This exhibit will immerse guests in the Bible's journey through time, technology and culture—beginning as a collection of oral traditions and writings accessible to only a few people, undergoing major changes in form, being embraced by communities around the world and becoming the most widely read text in history.
Size and Content
Featuring more than 600 artifacts and 50 media programs, History of the Bible covers 30,000 square feet organized into 11 galleries:
- History of the Bible Lobby: Sculptural maps illustrate growing access to the Bible, from use in a single language among a small group of people, to thriving in hundreds of languages across the globe.
- Drive Thru History of the Bible Theater: In a 75-seat, surround sound theater, TV personality Dave Stotts leads guests through an action-adventure overview of the Bible's history.
- In the Beginning: This gallery traces the history of the Bible as it emerges in the ancient Near East, including archaeological discoveries that shed light on biblical traditions rooted in the shared culture of the region.
- The Written Tradition: This gallery recounts how the Bible grew and was shared as Jewish texts were translated into Greek and Christians produced the books of their own New Testament.
- La Biblia: This gallery shows the Bible is a compilation of many texts, and how—because not all religious traditions agree on which books should be included—there are in fact several different Bibles.
- Translating the Bible: This gallery looks at how growing numbers of Bible followers called for translations into many languages, while Jewish and Christian leaders worked to ensure consistent versions of their Bibles remained.
- Revolutionary Words: This gallery places the Bible at the center of the technological, intellectual and social revolutions of the Renaissance, and demonstrates how printing made the Bible widely available for the first time.
- The King James Bible: This gallery illustrates the story behind the English Bible, whose literary qualities helped make it the most influential and widely read Bible for more than 350 years.
- Bibles for Everyone: This gallery reveals how growth in wealth, technology and access to education resulted in the transmission and translation of the Bible on a previously unimagined scale, while for some groups, the traditional form and language of the Bible remained virtually unchanged—evidenced by a display of almost 200 Torah scrolls and a live demonstration by a Jewish scribe working to copy a complete Torah by hand.
- The Bible Research Lab: This high-tech classroom setting, complete with cameras and overhead monitors, presents live programs on artifact conservation and Bible research.
- IllumiNations: This final gallery draws attention to the work—continuing today—of translating the Bible into the languages of the world, with a display of Bibles or partial Bibles in more than 2,000 languages and media programs documenting ongoing translation work around the globe.
Biblical Texts and Artifacts
Displayed within History of the Bible are more than 600 original artifacts, including such biblical treasures as:
- The Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a palimpsest manuscript with multiple layers of text, including a sixth century Aramaic translation of the Gospels
- The Hours and Psalter of Elizabeth de Bohun, Countess of Northampton, circa 1330 A.D.—a sumptuously illuminated medieval manuscript belonging to an ancestor of the British royal family
- The Codex Valmadonna I, dated 1189 A.D., the earliest surviving Hebrew manuscript copied in England
- A Samaritan Torah scroll dating from the 12th century A.D.
- A "Noble Fragment" of the first edition of the Gutenberg Bible, circa 1455 A.D., the first major book to be printed in Europe using movable type
- William Tyndale's New Testament, 1552 A.D., the first edition of the New Testament in English
- A 1611 first edition of the King James Bible New Testament—one of only two known to have survived
- 200 Torah scrolls from the 17th through 19th centuries
Media and Technology
Media is integral to the experience in History of the Bible. A total of 54 media programs allow guests to explore the story of the Bible and the unique artifacts on display through entertaining films; interactive, multiuser touch-tables; immersive audio soundscapes; video projections; and a destination theater experience: Drive Thru the History of the Bible.
The History of the Bible exhibit was designed by The PRD Group of Chantilly, Virginia, which provides exhibit planning, research and design services to museums. Among their projects are the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Museum of Alabama, Texas State History Museum and exhibits for the Smithsonian Institution. The exhibit's five major films were produced by Coldwater Media in the style of its award-winning "Drive Thru History" television series. Media production for more than 50 additional innovative programs was provided by Richard Lewis Media Group. Exhibit fabrication, technology integration and turnkey installation services were provided by Design and Production Inc. of Lorton, Virginia.
The exhibit's content was developed by The PRD Group in consultation with an international team of scholars, led by Gordon Campbell, Ph.D., and David Trobisch, Ph.D., combining the Museum of the Bible Collections with interactive storytelling to immerse guests in the Bible's journey through time, technology and culture, from rare, individually crafted scrolls to the digital Bible currently available throughout the world on personal devices.
About Museum of the Bible
Museum of the Bible is an innovative, global, educational institution whose purpose is to invite all people to engage with the Bible. On Nov. 17, 2017, Museum of the Bible, which aims to be the most technologically advanced museum in the world, opened its 430,000-square-foot nonprofit museum just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. A digital fly-through of the Museum is viewable here. A 360-degree hardhat tour of the museum is available here.